OPINION – With graduation season in full swing, there’s a lot of thoughtful, if not clichéd, advice being offered to graduates.
Assuming the graduates didn’t party too hard the night before commencement, they might actually remember some of this advice. Along with the threadbare platitudes exhorting them, “follow your dreams” or “never stop learning” or remember that “the future is yours,” there’s always an off chance that some truly innovative truths may be offered.
For this reason, I like to keep an eye out for commencement speeches that went into truly unexplored territory. Occasionally, someone will break free of the bromides and provide some serious food for thought.
Two years ago, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had the opportunity to speak at the high school commencement of one of his grandchildren. Scalia, tongue in cheek, urged the students to reconsider the standard advice that believing deeply in something and following that belief is the most important thing we can do.
It is much less important how committed you are than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person, who knows what’s right rather than the zealot in the cause of error.
Scalia reminded the graduates that being zealous in our pursuit of ideals isn’t enough. He counseled them:
Be sure that your ideals are the right ones, not merely in their ends, but in their means. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being. Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then when you follow your conscience, you will be headed in the right direction.
That makes sense.
Upon reaching the point in life where we’re finally making a majority of our own decisions and becoming the masters of our destiny, nothing will make or break us faster than not knowing who we are or for what we stand.
To this end, I’d like to recommend an exercise that could prove beneficial for anyone, graduate or not, who’d like to live their life with a greater sense of purpose.
It starts with writing a personal platform.
Most of us are familiar with political platforms which state the formal set of principal goals or ideals that are supported by a particular candidate or party. Typically, these platforms are created to generate support among the voting public.
A personal platform is less about garnering popular support than it is about having a clear understanding of our own core ideals and why we hold them.
My own personal platform starts with an assessment of who I am. This is not synonymous with what I do for a living. I am a communicator, an opinion leader and a disciple.
Too many people gauge their success by how they are perceived by others in terms of their employment, how much they make or what they own. This can blind them to their highest potential which has much more to do with being an outstanding human being.
Are you a healer? An educator? A liberator? What is it that you do well because it feels as though you were born to do it?
The next part of my personal platform states what I stand for. These are the core principles by which I choose to live my life regardless of whether they are popular or not. They include liberty, the golden rule and self-sufficiency.
A good way to know what you stand for is to evaluate which ideals resonate with you so powerfully that you choose to make room for them in your life. They matter enough to you that you’d sacrifice other pleasing pastimes that don’t bring the same value into your life.
Another part of my personal platform states what I am against. Approach this part of your own platform with caution.
We don’t want to get carried away to the point that we start defining ourselves by who our enemies are or what we fear.
Rather than mistaking complaining for positive action, this is the place to clarify our most deeply held personal principles we’re not willing to compromise.
For instance, my opposition to coercion and collectivism doesn’t mean I see everyone who buys into them as an enemy. Instead, I choose to see it as an opportunity to teach, where possible, a more productive way of living.
The last part of my personal platform is my core message. This is the truth that is proclaimed by my actions, my words and how I choose to live my life.
Each of us proclaims this message daily, whether we mean to or not.
A personal platform serves as your own road map to your destiny. The only approval required is your own.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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